Tag Archives: Economy

Gandhi’s Swadeshi & A Dream of Self-Sufficiency

Swadeshi in Mahatma Gandhi’s thinking is a moral value and a practice in socio-economics and intrinsically linked to svarāj (self-rule), satyāgraha (truth-force), ahimsa (non-injury), and sarvodaya (welfare for all). 

The British Government in India stood for the capitalists and big business in Britain, and this determined the commercial, industrial and financial policies, such as paying for British war efforts and dispersing her debts. So big Indian industry was not fostered, and instead, exploited India’s immense resources and labor markets.

Gandhi sensed that by patronizing indigenous industry, big and small, work could be made available to the unemployed masses, and thereby they would not be ruthlessly exploited. What was foremost on his mind was the stark poverty of the masses. Gandhi advocated the revival of cottage industry such as khadi, which became the symbol both of the rejection of foreign-manufactured goods and the embracing of indigenous industry in microscale forms, symbolized by the charkha.

In the 1930s, 73% of the population were dependent upon agriculture; other than being engaged in harnessing raw material for the factory mills in England; industrialization could not reach nor benefit the masses. There could be no svarāj unless a way was found to ameliorate the hardship and horrors of the masses. Gandhi’s vision was that of a free India where a mobilized peasantry in the rural area would resist the spread of industrial capitalism and, instead, were empowered toward their own means of production. 

The second divide was internal, namely, the growing urban-rural divide. Urban industrial schemes used the villagers for their cheap labor and raw material. Furthermore, the introduction of urban values, economy, and way of life in the villages led to the destruction of traditional forms of sustenance, way of life, and the values that go with it. Gandhi was keen to free the village economy these yokes. So the idea of progress and reform had to be circumscribed within the context of the rural environment and rural needs, not wants.   

Swadeshi became popular in India after the Partition of Bengal. As Sushila Nayar notes, ‘Gandhiji made a distinction between “political swadeshi” and “genuine Swadeshi”. Political Swadeshi meant an artificial barrier on the flow of goods from one place to another and imposed by political division of the world. It could not contribute to world peace.

Gandhiji felt the need for “genuine Swadeshi” – which meant denying ‘to ourselves the enjoyment of goods not manufactured with our approval and within our knowledge’. Only thus would human beings become fully sensitive to the social repercussions of their transactions, and pave the way for world peace. Gandhi’s appointed economist, the Columbia University-trained J C Kumarappa, called this the ‘economics of peace’ and led the All-India Village Industries Association established by the National Congress in 1934.

C F Andrews with Mahatma Gandhi and Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore in Shantiniketan, 1925. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The concept of swadeshi coupled with svarāj had a universal appeal outside India.

In the southern parts of America where the descendants of the slaves were searching for a scheme that would empower their industriousness in agriculture and crafting of small goods,  Booker T. Washington, a black social reformer, set up the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in regional Alabama; he learned from Gandhi’s emissary, C F Andrews, how the rural and unemployed work towards self-sustainability in Gandhi’s ashrams. Tuskegee deployed a similar scheme to cultivate skills such as carpentry, printing, brick making, agri-and-pharma culture, soil care, waste management, and home economics. This was an experiment in self-sustainability that drew wide attention across America; two American Presidents visited Tuskegee and helped raise endowments.

In more recent times, African nations such as Botswana and Swaziland have adopted the Swadeshi model.

While I was a Fulbright Scholar in India, I came to realize the realities and hardships of the rural workers who migrate to urban areas for work. They face many challenges, not least in the areas of food security, poverty, literacy, sanitation, health, and immune deficiencies. The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted a large number of precarious and vulnerable families.  Many slum families have lost their livelihoods. Some are gradually trying to recover, and many are forced to sell vegetables or other eatables or take up whatever short-term daily wage labor they are able to garner; while others have returned to native villages and may return when the livelihood prospects improve.

Families who possess food grain storage are able to cope better; however, most have exhausted their grain reserves. Families without grain storage suffer badly during the lockdowns and depend on a supply of free food items from Government or civil society sources. These families run a high risk of facing food insecurity, undernutrition, and non-immunity against the rapid spread of COVID-19 in regional areas. 

It is obvious that tradition meets with difficulties when it attempts to negotiate the demands of a democratic, open, and pluralistic modernist society. A holistic and de-hierarchized model of life and the world, where duties, roles, and functions are stressed within an overarching order of right, is a better model when social and moral ideals –  such as freedom, justice, and equality –  are relativized to this larger order.

As Gandhi stressed, ‘Economics is untrue which disregards moral values. This extension of the law of nonviolence in the domain of economics means nothing less than the introduction of moral values. I use the adjective moral as synonymous with spiritual.’ 

In the Gandhian model of economics:  exploitation is replaced by service; acquisitiveness by renunciation or minimalism; global by the local; and centralization by self-regulation. ‘The economic system, politically nonviolent and democratic, should be cooperative and constructive instead of [being] exclusive, competitive, and militant.’  Gandhi eschewed reliance on luxurious and superfluous goods and the entertainment fetishism that provides no moral or intellectual succor and does not help with the development of character.  This does not preclude public utilities on larger-scale plans nor centralized and capital-intensive public services for other needs, provided there is a measure of balance with small-scale, labor-intensive, decentralized, and village- or community-based service portals that provide for the diverse needs of human beings and animals in a protected ecological environment. 

There have been a few bold thinkers who have delved into moral and legal texts in order to distill ideas into what the Kolkata-based theorist S. K. Chakraborty has dubbed “Spiri-nomics” (shorthand for “spirituality” + “economics”). This is a timely scheme, making an impact on India’s management and business arenas. 

Milton Singer offered valuable insight. In looking for new spiritual incentives to help modernize India’s economy, he commented: In their indigenous ‘materialism,’ as well as in their philosophy of renunciation, interpreted by Gandhi as a discipline of action in the service of others, may reside the psychological and moral motive forces needed for a democratic and nonviolent industrial development of India. Gandhi sought to lay the basis for redistribution of wealth that would be consistent with a sacrificial moral order (ṛta/dharma) of the cosmos.

Where to with ātmanirbhar bhārat abhiyān? 

Today, India as a hub of outsourcing for foreign corporations holds some promises, but there are also issues. The new Indian entrepreneurship might not augur well for swadeshi; perhaps it may when redirected by the dynamic spirit of atmanirbhar abhiyān. But if the Gandhian principles and experience of Swadeshi are not followed it may end up rehearsing the old pattern of dominance in the race towards globalization, both economic and political.

Even as India’s global outreach brings its GDP growth rate close to 6.0 percent, there is a lack of adequate infrastructure for proper redistribution and utilization of state funds toward microsocial programs and empowerment for the precariously disadvantaged. The bureaucracy given to excessive red tape and middle-management, impacts on helpless farmers (who have been taking themselves to suicide), also on women farmers, or the powerless vegetable vendor in the local market. As the Berkeley economist, Pranab Bardhan, points out, this is India’s postcolonial tragedy, in contrast to China’s much better-organized infrastructure and distribution systems. 


Dr. Purushottama Bilimoria is a Research Fellow with the Center for Dharma Studies, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley; a visiting professor of the University of California; and a Principal Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He is co-Editor-in-Chief of ​Journal of Dharma Studies.

Does Prop 22 Do Justice for the Gig Workers?

Forum – A column where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

Does Prop 22 Do Justice to the Gig Economy? No!

In 1959, despite graduating at top of her law class at Columbia, Ruth Bader Ginsberg had a hard time finding jobs because she was a mother. She, later on, went on to work on gender equality laws over the next decades. As a result, today any reference to an employee’s sex in the workplace decisions irrespective of their capabilities will land employers in a world of legal trouble. At its core AB5 is about economic inequality in the workplace. 

Just like gender equality laws from the 70s, AB5 can appear burdensome to employers. On the other hand, Proposition 22 at its core is about Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and other gig economy companies trying to get away with an awful business model of counting their employees as a variable cost. The ads for Prop 22 mischaracterize the drivers as only part-time workers who already have a full-time job.

Based on my personal experience on multiple Uber rides this is completely untrue. These Drivers depend on UBER for a substantial if not all of their income. And based on my conversations with them they barely earn a minimum wage and have no allowance for the depreciation of their cars. Never mind health coverage.  Uber makes it a policy to lobby and pressure lawmakers in every city to support their flawed business model.

Despite this, their stock is down 20% from IPO in May 2019 and have a 1.6B loss against revenue of just 2.6B. I imagine other rideshare companies are probably in similar shape.  Further with self-driving cars fast approaching its only a matter of time before Uber goes driverless making this move a short-term gimmick to support their flagging stock price.  A favorite argument of conservatives is why have worker regulations at all why not let everyone work for “themselves”. This is euphemistically called the right to work in many states especially the southern states.  In 2008, a detailed study of the RTW states was done by the National Education Council and the findings of the study are very damning. The RTW states have: a higher poverty rate of 14.4% versus the 12% in others, lower per capita income of 38K versus 44K, and a higher rate of uninsured people. The uninsured rate differential is probably even higher today because many of these very states rejected Obamacare Medicaid expansion.  Sustainable economic activity is created as a result of entrepreneurship coupled with good regulation. The choice should not be between no job and a bad job.  

Having said that AB5 is far from perfect. The issue with Prop 22 is that it is a proposition.  We have bi-annual elections and representative democracy – the proposition process just circumvents the legislative process.  So I recommend a no vote on 22.

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry. He enjoys following politics and economics.

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Does Prop 22 Do Justice to the Gig Economy? Yes!

In these times of rampant unemployment, gig jobs at Uber, Lyft, Doordash, etc. are providing a lifeline to over a million Californians. Prop 22 will eliminate these jobs as the businesses cannot afford to treat these workers as employees and pay for benefits. Prop 22 preserves the right of these drivers to be independent contractors, something that is supported 4:1 by these drivers. The CA Chamber of Commerce and Silicon Valley Group are among others urging a Yes vote on Prop 22. Gig employment offers flexibility and freedom for workers to set their own hours and also work part-time.

Gig employment is going to be the main employment engine of the future. Governor Newsom should immediately campaign for a Yes vote on Prop 22 and ensure its passage. The livelihood of more than a million Californians depends on it. 

Please vote YES on Prop 22.

Rameysh Ramdas is a resident of the SF Bay Area and has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 


Have ideas for what our Forum columnists should debate? Send a note to editor@indiacurrents.com

How to Secure Your Startup Properly

It’s always hard to set up a new business. And it’s even harder to do so successfully in the middle of a pandemic. 

According to TechCrunch, in the current climate, 70 percent of Indian startups will face financial difficulties alongside the other issues inherent in launching a new venture. But India has one of the world’s most bustling startup ecosystems, a fact that gives an immense amount of hope to both the private and public sectors. 

Attending to cybersecurity is a key part of setting up any new business in 2020. Without the right tools and strategies in place, a startup is likelier to fall victim to cybercrime and suffer both financial and reputational losses.

India is the second most affected region worldwide when it comes to cybercrime, so to give your new company the very best chance of succeeding, it stands to reason that your venture needs to significantly invest in a solid cybersecurity strategy, here’s how:

Create a culture of cybersecurity

Whether your business has 200 staff members or you’re operating with a team of 5, make sure that cybersecurity forms a key role in your company’s ethos. Creating a culture of cybersecurity means ensuring that everyone in the business is aware of the risks and knows that security is everyone’s job, not just the IT people’s.

Staff training can go a long way towards a solid cybersecurity culture. Bring in experts to train the team on procedures if possible.

Have the right tools for the job

Gone are the days when an antivirus was all the protection your computer needed. Now, in today’s dynamic and ever-changing digital world, the threats are far more advanced. Your company should seriously consider investing in the following tools at the very minimum:

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

You might think VPNs are primarily tools for privacy. But what a VPN does is create a private network, which in the process encrypts any data in transmission, keeping it safe from prying eyes. Installing a VPN in the office’s router means all devices, including any IoT-enabled tools, are protected.

Anti Malware & antivirus

Get both to ensure as much protection as possible from both the threats of old and the more modern threats such as drive-by malware downloads.

Email scanners

The changing face of phishing means that it’s not always easy to detect fraudulent emails or outreach attempts, especially when the attack is planned by seasoned hackers. To help avoid any nasties being unwittingly opened by staff, invest in email scanning software.

Check for vulnerabilities and make a breach plan

Although it’s not nice to consider, it’s always best to plan for the worst-case scenario. If a breach occurs, what is your company’s plan, who do you need to report the breach to, and how will the business inform affected clients? These are the questions your breach plan needs to cover.

To help avoid the nightmarish breach plan being enacted, try and get a cybersecurity expert to check over your systems and find any vulnerabilities. 

Founding a new business is tough, and it’s tougher still when faced with the spate of cyber threats on the horizon. But following the three actionable steps above gives your startup a greater chance of making it through and becoming a success.


Brad Smith is a technology expert at TurnOnVPN, a non-profit promoting a safe and free internet for all. He writes about his dream for free internet and unravels the horror behind big techs.

An International Student’s Concerns

COVD-19 has caused worldwide concerns in the higher education space, especially in the middle of the ongoing decline in the number of international students studying at American universities. They are losing billions of dollars as reported in the March 2020 report of ‘NAFSA: Association of International Educators.’ There has been discussion on how it has impacted schools, colleges, next admission cycle, financial funding, how teachers are told to teach online. Most of the universities have moved to online teaching.

Some, like Boston University, are considering the possible postponement of their Fall 2020 semester, which will again put International students at higher risk because if they are not enrolled for a specific number of credits during a semester, they will not meet the visa regulations, initiating possible deportation proceedings against them. However, these are not the only challenges international students are going through, there are many more things we need to think about as we move forward. 

Take financial insecurity. Many of my American friends don’t know that International students are only allowed to work on campus for a limited number of hours to support themselves financially. These hours are further reduced during the summer semester for international students. Due to this unprecedented situation, international students are worried about how they will earn their livelihood and pay their bills with campuses closed. 

Traveling is extremely expensive at this point. Canada, India, and many European countries are on complete lockdown. International travel is expensive, and that is why international students choose to go annually or biannually.

Someone I know can afford tuition fees, but they depend entirely on their on-campus cafe’s job to pay bills. In these extremely uncertain times, the educational institutions are doing their best to offer most of their classes online, providing free food, supplies, and virtual support, but this is a temporary solution. International students have sustained the economy of American Universities and though international students may not be citizens or permanent citizens, they pay similar kinds of taxes on their income; another contribution to the US economy that has been impacted.

I have been worried about my friends and family. I am not at home to take care of my parents, and to seek solace, I have been talking to other international students. I realized that I am not alone, we are all stressed. One lost their family member, a few have economic challenges, my friend’s elderly parents are alone without any help. We do not know if traveling is safe, from both, an immigration and health point of view. 

Many students have invested their hard-earned resources for a dream to earn their degrees from America. University of Chicago’s Business Professor and Economist Anil Kashyap and Jean-Pierre Danthine at the Paris School of Economics are predicting a massive recession that will likely hit the job market shortly, which would be again detrimental for international students trying to find a job. Graduate students who are joining US schools from Fall 2020 also see an uncertain future because after they graduate in two or five years, depending upon what degree they are pursuing, may not have a stable economy waiting to welcome them. 

This situation is of global concern and everyone should take steps that are guided by morality and compassion. The American economy has benefited immensely from the contribution of immigrants. Far from home, they don’t have much direct physical support, unlike most other students, and everyone should come forward with a different approach to meet our challenges.

Saurabh Anand is an international Ph.D. student and a Graduate School Research Assistantship Block Grant (GSRA) fellow in the Department of Language and Literacy at the University of Georgia. A version of this article was first published in Duluth News Tribune.

Should California Reopen Its Economy? Yes!

Should California Reopen Its Economy? Yes!

by Mani Subramani

There are many unknowns with respect to Covid-19.  We don’t know when we will have a vaccine.  We don’t know when we will have an effective cure or when we will have widespread testing.  Yet we know several important facts. Covid-19 is NOT like the flu.  It spreads much faster and is much more deadly.  The death rate in the US is approaching 5.7% of the people who tested positive compared to the Flu which is around 0.1%.  

Based on what we know, the only way to protect lives is to avoid or significantly minimize transmission. As of today, this goal has been achieved by excellent planning, anticipation, consistent communication, and early adoption of the Shelter In Place order in California.  We have been able to maintain adequate spare ICU capacity over the past few months.  This has resulted in a much lower death rate in California in comparison to New York. Countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, and Taiwan have implemented an effective strategy based on testing, quarantine, and tracing. 

There is widespread support for the measures adopted by the state. However, it is completely unsustainable. Coronavirus is expected to be around for a very long time. Maintaining current levels of economic disruption can be devastating to the economy and cause a collapse of small businesses, communities, and maybe even cause social unrest.  

It is estimated that 50-60% of all small businesses are on the verge of failure, Heather Knight writes. Small businesses are just not able to receive any help from the small business protection program. She estimates that San Francisco alone could lose unto 1.6 B in tax revenues in the next two years due to small business failures.  Less than 10% of small businesses were helped by the first round of funding and the second round of $350B offers little hope for small business owners. This should come as no surprise given the ineptness of this administration. 

Governor Newsom and the local officials deserve all the credit for monitoring and getting the disease under control this past two months.  They have begun a slow process for reopening which began May 18. But the time has come to go to the next stage and provide guidelines, rules and recommend appropriate PPE to ALL businesses, so they can open. Yes ALL businesses including hair salons, restaurants, ballparks, and movie theaters to open.  

California, let’s lead the way and open with all deliberate haste.

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

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Should California Reopen Its Economy? No!

by Rameysh Ramdas

The most fundamental duty and obligation of a government is to safeguard its citizens and ensure their safety. President Trump and some Republican Governors are ignoring the advice of experts and urging the end of the shelter in place, reopening public places. This is a grave mistake. 

During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the second and third waves reportedly killed upwards of 20 million people – all because the Government decided to open up the economy after just a month of shutdown. 

While the economic impacts of the shutdown are devastating, the economy cannot and should not be prematurely opened due to economic concerns. Dr. Tom Inglesby, Director of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and others such as Professor Leonard Fleck of Michigan State University, has cautioned that we risk an even larger wave of infections if we rush to normalcy too soon. President Trump and lawmakers across the country should listen to these wise words of caution. 

Gavin Newsom permitted a Phase 2 reopening starting May 18, 2020 in California, with varying levels of restrictions on specific counties. Santa Clara, one of the last counties to join the order, was burdened by slower economic growth if they resumed stricter shelter in place orders. Clearly, health professionals are still apprehensive about the new rules. 

Let us wait until there is a complete elimination of new infections or the widespread availability of a vaccine before we resume our normal lives. 

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.


This article was also published as Should California Reopen Its Economy? No!

Should California Reopen Its Economy? No!

Should California Reopen Its Economy? No!

by Rameysh Ramdas

The most fundamental duty and obligation of a government is to safeguard its citizens and ensure their safety. President Trump and some Republican Governors are ignoring the advice of experts and urging the end of the shelter in place, reopening public places. This is a grave mistake. 

During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the second and third waves reportedly killed upwards of 20 million people – all because the Government decided to open up the economy after just a month of shutdown. 

While the economic impacts of the shutdown are devastating, the economy cannot and should not be prematurely opened due to economic concerns. Dr. Tom Inglesby, Director of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and others such as Professor Leonard Fleck of Michigan State University, has cautioned that we risk an even larger wave of infections if we rush to normalcy too soon. President Trump and lawmakers across the country should listen to these wise words of caution. 

Gavin Newsom permitted a Phase 2 reopening starting May 18, 2020 in California, with varying levels of restrictions on specific counties. Santa Clara, one of the last counties to join the order, was burdened by slower economic growth if they resumed stricter shelter in place orders. Clearly, health professionals are still apprehensive about the new rules. 

Let us wait until there is a complete elimination of new infections or the widespread availability of a vaccine before we resume our normal lives. 

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

**************************

Should California Reopen Its Economy? Yes!

by Mani Subramani

There are many unknowns with respect to Covid-19.  We don’t know when we will have a vaccine.  We don’t know when we will have an effective cure or when we will have widespread testing.  Yet we know several important facts. Covid-19 is NOT like the flu.  It spreads much faster and is much more deadly.  The death rate in the US is approaching 5.7% of the people who tested positive compared to the Flu which is around 0.1%.  

Based on what we know today, the only way to protect lives is to avoid or significantly minimize transmission. As of today this goal has been achieved by excellent planning, anticipation, consistent communication, and early adoption of the Shelter In Place order in California.  We have been able to maintain adequate spare ICU capacity over the past few months.  This has resulted in a much lower death rate in California in comparison to New York. Countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, and Taiwan have implemented an effective strategy based on testing, quarantine, and tracing. 

There is widespread support for the measures adopted by the state. However, it is completely unsustainable. This virus is expected to be around for a very long time. Maintaining current levels of economic disruption can be devastating to the economy and cause a collapse of small businesses, communities, and maybe even cause social unrest.  

It is estimated that 50-60% of all small businesses are on the verge of failure, Heather Knight writes. Small businesses are just not able to receive any help from the small business protection program. She estimates that San Francisco alone could lose unto 1.6 B in tax revenues in the next two years due to small business failures.  Less than 10% of small businesses were helped by the first round of funding and the second round of $350B offers little hope for small business owners. This should come as no surprise given the ineptness of this administration. 

Governor Newsom and the local officials deserve all the credit for monitoring and getting the disease under control this past two months.  They have begun a slow process for reopening which began May 18. But the time has come to go to the next stage and provide guidelines, rules and recommend appropriate PPE to ALL businesses, so they can open. Yes ALL businesses including hair salons, restaurants, ballparks, and movie theaters to open.  

California, let’s lead the way and open with all deliberate haste.

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.


This article was also published under Should California Reopen Its Economy? Yes!

Our Planet To Save: Teens Educate

Many say that we have seen three wars in our lifetime: 9/11, the housing crisis, and the most current one, Coronavirus.

In the background, looming like an avatar for death, are cities covered in billowing smog from factories, blackened skies, and people gasping for the last bit of fresh air.  

Let us not forget the ongoing battle for clean air, fuel, and water….

In the race for power among competing foreign nations, many have pushed for industrialization to develop economic and social prowess. Toys, weaponry, and clothes all became commodities as a result of mass production, delighting many. 

It has been about 250 years since the industrial revolution and not much has changed in the fight to mitigate what we now call the climate crisis. Profits have been prioritized over well-being, as safety has taken a back seat to ease of life.

Climate change is something that is often overlooked by many who view the phenomenon as a “hoax” and question its existence due to lack of awareness and miseducation.

Is what we have done to our planet acceptable given the benefits of industries? What more can we do? Was this a problem waiting to happen?

These are questions we must ask ourselves daily, and frankly there isn’t a straightforward answer. Every individual, however, can make a change, and that’s what The Incentive, a climate change news publication built by a team of bay area high schoolers, is tackling head-on.

Founded by – Arun Balaji, Kaushal Kumar, and Sudhit Rao – juniors at Monta Vista High School, The Incentive joins the climate change movement and shakes things up.

The Incentive’s goal is to create a platform where people can receive reliable information regarding the implications of climate change. They are moving away from the average, uninspired, and repetitive news site that only reports on how climate change is impacting the environment. The Incentive’s angles on climate change are novel, as they take a look at the economy, societal culture, and local policy to frame their narratives. 

Imaged pulled from The Incentive website.

Part of their mission is to raise local awareness on the more subtle impacts of climate change by involving the next generation. In order to accomplish this, they have worked with middle school teachers in their community to increase the environmental literacy of their students by engaging with articles on The Incentive.

The organization strives to expand across the United States and turn their non-profit into a global institution. Currently, they have two affiliated chapters – one in New York and the other in Virginia – that are working to make an impact in their respective communities. They encourage their chapters to attend city council meetings, reach out to schools in their area to incorporate our website, attend climate change rallies, or create a club at their school. 

Due to collective efforts, the publication has managed to garner thousands of monthly viewers. Next steps include creating more chapters of The Incentive across several states and countries. If you are interested, here is a link to learn more about their outreach program.

The Incentive team hopes that through their publication and outreach, they will be able to make a significant impact on mitigating climate change and are strong believers that any individual, no matter their background or power can make an impact on mitigating climate change. All it takes is focus and dedication for any individual to make an impact.

Sudhit speaks on behalf of his organization, “We encourage all readers to get on social media and post ways they are mitigating climate change, whether it is planting a tree, telling your friends to do so, or being a full-on activist. It is our planet to save, and we are its last lifeline.”

For more information on The Incentive, follow their Instagram.

Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Decoding Modi’s Resounding Victory

Prime Minister Narendra Modi achieved a super-sized victory in the recently held Lok Sabha elections in India. This is his second consecutive term in office and he won it by a whopping majority. His party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has crossed the 300-seat mark in the 543-member Lok Sabha.

Let’s begin by looking at the state of the economy in which people have voted for PM Modi. During his election campaign in 2013-14, Modi raised expectations of a great economic revival, high growth and tens of millions of new jobs for the ever-growing workforce. The new government hit the ground running and the first two years were action-packed with new programs and plans.  But, at the end of his five-year term, the economic slowdown is visible even through the fog of official statistics. Exports, barring a modest recent pickup, have been stagnant for the last five years, creating pressure on the economy, and reflecting growing lack of global competitiveness. Manufacturing is sluggish. Banking and the power sectors require urgent reform. Further, India’s unemployment rate hit 6.1% in the fiscal year ending 2018; reportedly the country’s highest in over four decades. An estimated 12 million young Indians join the workforce every year, and the country needs to grow much faster in order to provide jobs for all of them. Another set of figures released by the government showed that gross domestic product expanded 5.8% in the quarter ending March, 2019. That’s a sharp decline from 6.6% growth in the previous quarter and the weakest rate in last five years.

As a result, the state of the economy is sharply diminishing living conditions of millions of people in India, a country that is already home to some of the world’s poorest and hungriest people. More than half of India’s population (around 700 million) is still living under ‘multi-dimensional poverty’ compared to 5.2 per cent in China.

But, Modi, who first swept to power in 2014 on promises to revive India’s economy and boost growth and job market, won election again by even bigger margin.  

Why did the people repose faith in him?  Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?

There were no serious corruption charges against the government and inflation was managed well during the first term (but faces upward pressure now). Further, one could attribute BJP’s success to better administration of welfare schemes/projects, and the Balakot strikes just before the election which retaliated against Pakistan’s sponsorship of terror groups and that pushed   the spirit of nationalism. While all these factors may have played a role they do not, even in combination, satisfactorily account for the magnitude of BJP’s sweeping victory in the frustrating job market and skidding economy.

What may have worked for BJP is that it succeeded to a large extent in turning this election into a referendum on PM Modi. Opposition parties appear to have helped in this process as their campaigns have primarily been about ousting Modi, rather than offering positive alternative visions of what they will do if elected to power. As the opposition was fragmented and offered no obvious PM candidate, this cemented the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor in favor of Modi.

But that is not the only reason behind his whopping success.  It’s possible some deep structural shifts are taking place in the Indian polity and Modi was smart enough to comprehend these in his favor. Indians, especially the young ones, are in a hurry to move away from ‘Third World’ space it currently occupies. And, they sensed that Modi can do it. India could be second ‘China’ under his leadership!  The BJP’s election manifesto, which was released just three days before the general election, aimed to make India a ‘developed’ nation by 2047, on completion of 100 years of Independence. “Our aim (is) to change India from a developing country to a developed country. We want to fight poverty rather than sit inside air conditioned rooms. Nationalism is our inspiration and inclusion and good governance is our mantra”.

Despite many problems people are confident that India’s ‘tryst with destiny’ could be achieved under Modi’s leadership. They consider him as a ‘messiah’ or expected deliverer of achieving the goal of developed and prosperous India.  Here, the media played a very active and vital role in promoting that image. In fact, Modi was in virtual reality due to digital excesses. Possibly, voters might have thought that Modi would do wonders in his second term.  We have to remember that Indians generally have hope when the situation appears to be hopeless. And, five years later in 2019, India has again placed high hopes in Narendra Modi. Will he deliver?

In 2014, Modi asked the Indians to give him 10 years to transform India. Well, here is his chance. So what should PM Modi do? A top American corporate leader, John Chambers, has asserted, while   congratulating him on his election victory that “in the next five years, PM Modi will lay the groundwork for India’s economic growth and prosperity for the next quarter century.”  And, there is no reason to doubt his observations.

First of all, two issues need urgent attention: agrarian unrest and the related job crisis. Any durable solution to agrarian crises requires non-farm jobs. The agrarian sector generates less than 15% of GDP but employed around 45% of the workers. It means that output per worker in this sector is less than one-fourth of that in industry and services combined. “With output per worker in industry and services itself low, per-worker output in agriculture is truly tiny”, noted by the economist Arvind Panagariya of Columbia University. One cannot resolve agrarian unrest without absorbing at least two-thirds of those dependent on the farm in non-farm jobs. So, generating non-agrarian jobs that provide adequate wages is the biggest issue.   

Secondly, there needs to be a concurrent increase in productivity. India became the fifth largest economy in the world in terms of GDP in 2018 but still it has a very-very low per capita GDP, as per IMF. It is placed at 122nd position among 187 countries.

What is needed now is a new generation of economic reforms which will unleash productive forces and generate jobs.

Modi has to recognize that the export-oriented, low-skill, large-scale manufacturing jobs that developing economies have relied upon (and that was the key to much of China’s success) are on the wane around the world. Automation and AI are reducing the amount of low-skill work that the manufacturing sector requires and is adversely affecting the job market.  Thus, there are many reforms that India is required to carry out to attain competitive strength in manufacturing and reducing the level of unemployment and underemployment. These would require changes in labor and land laws, cutting corporate and general taxes, and improving basic infrastructure especially uninterrupted cheap power supply. The availability of the water is another crucial issue.

Most importantly, unlocking the human potential to enhance productivity is a must and it should be India’s priority, since India’s Unique Selling Point (USP) is its people.

Let us consider some facts. India has done well over the past decade or so to get most of its children into school. It has done less well at getting them to learn anything. Analysts are, therefore, already worrying that India’s demographic dividend — its vast pool of young people — will become a curse: Without jobs, all those young people could drag down the country instead of pushing it towards upper-middle income status. The problem is that they are desperately short of preparation for both the old economy and the new. In addition, the population growth is also a worrying factor.  The current population growth in India is mainly caused by unwanted fertility.  Around five in ten live births are unintended/unplanned or simply unwanted by the women who experience them which    trigger continued high population growth. Around 26 million children were born in India in 2018, and out of this about 13 million births could be classified as unwanted. Further, based on the National Family Health Surveys (1 to 4), it is estimated that in 2018 around 445 million people out of 1,350 million in India were a result of unwanted pregnancies.  With a large number of people resulting from unwanted pregnancies, how can one think about using them for nation building?   

What India does in the next five years will determine not only the destiny of the country but also of PM Modi? A person like Modi knows about it that the people elected him with immense hope that he will change their lives for better. Investments in education, health, living environment and its determinants – the social sector – therefore, should be made a priority in the next five years to lay the foundation for a developed India by 100th birth anniversary of India. For this, PM Modi must use unmatched political capital to make it happen today!  

After obtaining formal degrees from Harvard and Australian National universities, Dr. Devendra Kothari has been working on issues pertaining to population and development. He can be contacted at: dkothari42@gmail.c9om or 09829119868.   Last year, his comments on “Population and Climate Change” appeared in the New York Times (Sept. 11, 2018). Also see his Blog at: kotharionindia.blogspot.com

How India Can Lead the World in Clean Energy

As evidenced by the fall of the rupee and the widening account deficit, India’s dependence on oil has left it bruised by global forces. In previous oil crises, India had no choice but to tighten budgets. But things are different now; advancing technologies offer a permanent solution to this and another dire problem: pollution. The country needs to take an aggressive approach to replacing fossil fuels with energy from the sun and wind.

What blocked humanity’s ability to tap the sun until recently was the cost of capturing its energy and converting it into electricity. Now, a few things have changed. We have become much better at making semiconductors for computers; and those same silicon technologies are what convert solar energy into electricity. We have developed ways to make solar panels from thinner slivers of silicon. We have gotten much better also at figuring out how to squeeze more out of the solar energy we capture. And, most importantly, economies of scale are beginning to affect the price.

For these reasons, solar-energy capture is advancing on an exponential curve. With that advance, we are heading into an era of practically unlimited, clean, almost free energy—and this could be India’s savior.

The first solar photovoltaic panel built by Bell Labs in 1954 cost $1,000 per watt of power it produced. In 2008, modules used in solar arrays cost $3.49 per watt; by 2018, the price per watt had fallen to less than 40 cents. The amount of solar-generated power has been doubling every two years or less for the past 40 years — as costs have been falling. At this rate, solar power is only five doublings, or less than 12 years, away from being able to meet 100 percent of today’s energy needs.

It isn’t just solar production that is advancing at a rapid rate, and this will not be our only source of clean energy; there are also technologies with which to harness wind, biomass, thermal, tidal, and waste-breakdown energy, and research projects all over the world are working on improving their efficiency and effectiveness. Wind power’s price became competitive with the cost of energy from new coal-burning power plants in 2016, and prices have continued to fall since. Wind-power contracts were recently signed at 2 cents/kwh in Mexico and Brazil and Rs 2.43 in Gujarat.

According to Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook 2018, India’s levelled cost of electricity, which takes into account the net present value of the unit-cost of electricity over the lifetime of a generating asset, for onshore wind is now 3.9 cents per kWh, down by 46 percent from its price of a year ago, and the cost of solar is 4.1 cents, down by 45 percednt. By comparison, coal costs 6.8 cents per kWh, and combined-cycle gas, 9.3 cents.

To be completely free from fossil fuels and a dependence on the grid, energy storage is needed. The cost of this too is plummeting. In 2008, the cost of industrial batteries was $1,000 per kWh of energy stored; by 2015, it had fallen to $268/kWh. In 2016, Tesla said that the cost of battery production at its Gigafactory was less than $190 kWh. This June, Elon Musk said this could fall to $100/kWh by year’s end. Even if this benchmark takes a year or two longer, what is clear is that there are revolutions in the making — revolutions that India can lead.

Prime Minister Modi laid out ambitious plans to build 175 GW of renewable power generation by 2022, with the addition of 100 GW of solar, 60 GW of wind, 10 GW of biomass, and 5 GW of small hydro. But, with the tariffs that have been imposed on solar cells, GST, and a lack of incentives, this goal is not likely to be achieved.

India should instead be cutting all red tape and taxes, offering subsidies, and doing whatever else it takes to transform the majority of its energy generation to solar and wind — by 2025 or sooner. Unlike fossil fuel subsidies, which only burn money, these investments will provide huge pay-offs in the short term.

Next, India should be first country in the world to rid its roads of fossil-fuel-consuming vehicles; this too is possible. The same batteries that store energy for the grid also power electric vehicles. With their falling costs, electric cars will soon be available at prices a fraction of their climate destroying predecessors’. The government should mandate that, by 2023, the sale of all fossil vehicles be banned and that by 2027, they will not be allowed on the roads.

Yes, there are very few electric vehicles on the market today; they are still costly; and the charging infrastructure isn’t there. But there is nothing to stop India’s entrepreneurs from fixing all of these problems, given the motive and support. The economic boom that would result, and the innovations India would create, could benefit the world.

Vivek Wadhwa is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School and Carnegie Mellon University. This article is partly derived from his book “Driver in the Driverless Car.”

This article first appeared in the Hindustan Times and is published with permission from the author.